“Why don’t you pick out a real book?” I’m ashamed to say, that was me when my older kids started really getting into chapter books and always wanted graphic novels or comics. I thought they were just being lazy, just wanting easy reads instead of applying themselves. As an avid reader, their choices annoyed me so much.
My husband defended them, and eventually, I looked into it more and learned the truth. Graphic Novels (and manga) can really encourage a love of books aside from the other hidden benefits of reading them.
So if you struggle every time you see your kid with another comic or graphic novel instead of a traditional book read on!
If you aren’t sure what I am talking about when I say graphic novel or manga, let’s take a minute to get you up to speed.
You undoubtedly know what a comic is, so a graphic novel is a novel written in a comic strip form. That’s easy enough. There are also a lot of books I would consider graphic novels that don’t have a traditional comic strip form but are mainly illustrations with little text on each page. Now manga is similar except it is a Japanese-style comic book or graphic novel.
Benefits of Graphic Novels and Manga
Now that we know what we are talking about let’s look at the amazing benefits!
- Improve Comprehension
- Encourage Multi-Modal Thinking
- Excellent Reading Practice
- Increase Empathy
- Boost Interest in Books
Of course, we are going to talk more about each one of these benefits individually to help you understand the power of graphic novels.
Graphic Novels Improve Comprehension
Let’s dive right into the benefits of graphic novels with increased comprehension.
In illustrated books, pictures are able to give clues as to what is happening in a story. They can help with contextual clues or just as support when a child is having difficulty making sense of the words. Seeing the picture provides something concrete for the words to be placed on.
Pictures make it easier for the child to then visualize what they read which is also a reason picture books are still good for older kids too.
In comic-style books, pictures actually fill in a lot of the details of the story, and Manga relies even more on illustrations than typical graphic novels. More pictures mean it is easier to visualize the story. Kids who can visualize what they are reading typically have a higher comprehension of the story as well.
Comics Encourage Multi-Modal Thinking
The images in graphic novels also serve to encourage multi-modal thinking.
What is multi-modal thinking, and why do we need it? Multi-modal thinking is just how it sounds; it is the ability to process multiple styles of communication. This is important to today’s world as we are constantly overwhelmed by information in multiple forms.
Graphic novels and manga are multi-modal. The story is told through both pictures and words. Unlike illustrated books, removing the illustrations from a comic would make the story incomplete.
Being accustomed to utilizing information in multiple ways already allows for faster processing and more flexibility. Exactly the skill minds need for the ever-changing world around us. Manga goes even further in increased flexibility because it requires reading from back to front as well as right to left or even horizontally across both pages.
Graphic Novels are Excellent Reading Practice
Reading practice, now this is where we all get hung up thinking that more pictures equal a lower reading level, but it isn’t true.
Graphic novels contain complex plots, characters, and conflicts just like un-illustrated novels. On average, they also contain more rare words per thousand than adult novels. Hello, vocabulary!
Even if your child is tending towards easier books, reading is reading. As adults, we do not read to our level all the time because we are doing it for enjoyment. We want our kids to learn to enjoy reading as well, so all reading counts. Even graphic novels and manga.
Plus, manga and graphic novels improve brain function just like traditional novels.
Comic Style Books Increase Empathy
It has been shown that reading fiction leads to increased empathy; this holds true for graphic novels as well.
In fact, graphic novels and manga can be even more helpful in this area as the emotions of the characters are typically displayed in illustration making them easier to decipher than when described through words. These comic books can even help those on the autism spectrum understand emotions better since they can see the emotion.
Since manga is specifically a Japanese comic book, they frequently include bits of Japanese culture. Learning about another culture is also a great way to teach kids about different lifestyles and empathy.
Graphic Novels Boost Interest in Reading
Of all the benefits, we saved the most important for last. Graphic novels increase interest in reading.
Graphic novels are more approachable for reluctant readers due to the numerous engaging illustrations and shorter text. My reluctant reader son says, “I like comic books because I don’t have to read about the landscape.” He is a bit impatient and prefers to get to the action rather than wading through descriptions.
Actually having the text broken into smaller pieces is great for a variety of kids. Rather than overwhelming pages of text, small sections aid struggling readers and those with attention disorders as well. This success in reading will lead them to more reading enjoyment which equals more reading!
It has also been shown that teens on the autism spectrum are better at processing images, so graphic novels are a great choice for them as well.
Another surprise about graphic novels and manga is their ability to introduce kids to more difficult stories in an approachable manner. Classic stories that kids generally shy away from retold in a graphic format are amazing. They get kids to fall in love with the story making it more likely for them to not only read the actual book later on but also to enjoy it.
Graphic Novels Made My Son a Reader
It is definitely a good thing I discovered the benefits of graphic novels before my son started reading much because without them he probably still wouldn’t be an eager reader.
He was a bit of a reluctant learner, and even after learning he was a reluctant reader. I honestly think he was overwhelmed by all the text on each page because I know he loved listening to stories.
Then we found Billy and the Mini Monsters. He devoured it, and in no time we owned them all.
Since then, he has moved on to reading traditional books as well, but he is still a big fan of graphic novels and rereads them often. He also loves audiobooks (and read-alouds) which hint, hint, count as real books too.
All of my kids enjoy reading graphic novels, manga, and traditional books, but that wouldn’t have been the case if I had kept my bad attitude toward graphic novels.
In fact, it is unlikely that two of my kids would read any more than they absolutely had to if I hadn’t allowed them to strengthen their skills with comic-style books first.
Now that I know how many benefits come with reading graphic novels, my kids get a little more freedom in their book choices. I still watch for content that may be inappropriate, and I still encourage reading a variety of genres and book types, but I also know that if I want to grow readers, they need to enjoy the books they are reading.